What’s New in Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Windows second big update, dubbed the “Anniversary Update”, is finally here. This is a huge update that touches every corner of the operating system. It includes many, many more changes than the November update did.

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The Anniversary Update will report itself as version 1607, despite the fact that it technically launched in August instead of July. If you don’t have it yet, try checking for updates in Windows 10’s Settings > Update & Security. You can also start the update manually from Microsoft’s support page here.

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Cortana Becomes a Whole Lot Smarter

Arguably the biggest update is Cortana. Microsoft continues to expand on what Cortana can do, clearly trying to make it the most powerful assistant in an increasingly growing pool of competition (Siri, Google Now, Alexa, and the whole gang). This time around, Cortana comes to the Windows 10 lock screen, so you can invoke her at any time. And, she can push stuff to and from your mobile device, including notifications and text messages. (And remember, since Cortana is available on Android too, that doesn’t mean you need a Windows Phone to take advantage.)

More interestingly, though, Cortana can parse even more information about stuff it thinks you might need. For example, the on-stage demo showed us that Cortana can respond to things like “Send Chuck the PowerPoint I worked on last night”, or “What toy store did I visit at Build last year?” That’s pretty crazy. Of course, if you’re more privacy-conscious, that’s crazy in all the wrong ways–but it’s a pretty tempting set of features.

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Cortana can also make proactive suggestions for you. If you receive email confirmation of flight details, it’ll add them to your calendar. If you promised Chuck you’d send him that PowerPoint in an email, Cortana will know, and remind you to fulfill that commitment later on.

Furthermore, if you add an appointment to your calendar, it’ll know if that appointment overlaps with another, and ask you if you want to re-schedule one of the overlapping events. Or, if you have a meeting during lunch it’ll ask if you want to book a table, or make a to-go order, based on the apps you have available. In short, Cortana is getting more proactive, so you don’t have to be on top of your own stuff–and isn’t that what having an assistant is all about?

Windows 10 Interacts with Your Android Phone (or Windows Phone)

Cortana on Windows 10 will now integrate with the Cortana application on your Android or Windows smartphone. You’ll just need to install the Cortana Android app and sign in with the same Microsoft account on both devices. iPhone users are out of luck, as iOS is too locked down for Microsoft to integrate with it as deeply. This just works between Windows 10 PCs and Windows Mobile 10 phones running the latest software. It now works between Android phones and Windows 10 PCs, too–just be sure you have the latest Cortana app installed from Google Play.

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Cortana can mirror all your Android phone’s notifications to your PC, giving you all your notifications in Windows 10’s Action Center. You’ll also see a notification on your PC when your smartphone has low battery power, so you’ll know when to charge it. Cortana will offer a “find my phone” feature that can remotely geolocate your phone on a map or ring it if you lose it in nearby. Ask Cortana for “directions to [place]” on your PC, and you’ll see those same directions on your phone. These are just the current features, too, so you can expect Microsoft to add more.

More Desktop Apps and Games Come to the Windows Store

The Windows Store is caught in a tough place right now. We want it to get more desktop apps and games, but we don’t want them limited by the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Microsoft is trying to fix that disconnect in the Anniversary Update.

Regular desktop apps are finally coming to the Windows Store–at least, as long as developers “convert” them to the UWP. This allows for the easy discovery and installation of the Windows Store but supposedly comes without all the limitations UWP apps traditionally have. We still aren’t quite sure what this means, and which apps might be candidates for a clean conversion without limitations, but it’s an intriguing proposition.

Microsoft has released a tool that allows anyone to convert any desktop application on their computer to a sandboxed UWP application. Developers can use this to convert their own apps for uploading to the Windows Store, so Windows desktop applications will appear in the Store. You could use it to convert an old desktop application to a UWP application and sideload the application, installing it from outside the Store if you wanted to.

Games are a big part of this. We’ve already seen that games bought from the Windows Store are missing certain features. Microsoft has already added support for disabling Vsync and enabling G-Sync and Freesync. They promise better support for multiple GPUs as well as modding, overlays, and more in the future. Microsoft also says they’ll soon support bundles and season passes in the Windows Store. But only time will tell if games get feature parity with their regular desktop counterparts.

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Connect Helps Phones With Continuum and PCs with Miracast

There’s a new “Connect” application designed for use with Windows 10 phones that support Continuum. It allows you to connect your phone to your PC without a dock, cable, or Miracast adapter.

This application also enables a “Project to PC” feature. PCs with Miracast can also use the Connect application to mirror their displays on other PCs.

Continuum, which allows you to power a Windows desktop experience from a Windows Phone (but only with universal apps), is the big, unique feature Windows 10 Mobile offers. We’re not surprised to see Microsoft focusing on it.